Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 6

We are officially in the second half of the 2018 General Assembly session! Each house has now completed work on all legislation introduced in its own house and is now working on legislation introduced in the opposite house.  The only exception to this is the budget bill.  The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees will report out their respective budgets on Sunday afternoon and floor debate will take place on the budget bills next Thursday.

The House has had a successful and productive first half of the Session, and I’d like to share with you some of our accomplishments.

House Bill 1558

Before I touch on our accomplishments of this Session, I want to address a piece of legislation that many of you are interested in. Over the last few weeks hundreds of you have contacted me about your opposition to House Bill 1558, known by many of you as simply “The Dominion Bill.”

Proponents of this bill claim that it would unwind the rate freeze passed in 2015 ahead of schedule and that customers would see monthly savings on their electricity bill.  The reality is, Virginians have been overcharged on their electric bills since 2015 and will continue to be overcharged if this legislation passes and is signed by Governor Northam.  

The 2015 “rate freeze” legislation was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor McAuliffe in large part because of fears of the potential negative impacts on constituents’ electric rates because of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  I opposed the 2015 “rate freeze” legislation at the time because I felt we were freezing rates at an artificially high level.  This turned out to be accurate.  

This year, electric companies are willing to end the freeze without having to refund all the money that Virginians were overcharged. House Bill 1558 is backed by the utilities and will return only a small portion of the over earnings and makes it highly unlikely that the SCC will be able to return the excess earnings either.  Instead, it allows utilities to use over-charges to fund infrastructure improvements. It also eliminates the SCC’s authority to evaluate more affordable options for consumers.  The SCC themselves have indicated that this legislation could potentially result in billions of dollars of additional costs borne by customers.

For this reason, I voted NO on House Bill 1558, just as I did the 2015 legislation.  While I do believe we should end the rate freeze, I would like for us to do this with legislation that ends the rate freeze, refunds Virginians that were overcharged, and restores the constitutional authority of the SCC.  

Combating the Opioid Crisis

In recent years the opioid crisis has been a top priority of House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle.  This crisis is taking hold of our communities and nearly everyone is touched by this epidemic in some way.

We lose an average of over three Virginians a day from this devastating crisis and no one is immune from this addiction. This year the House took a proactive approach to helping curb this deadly disease by passing seven pieces of legislation to help end the crisis.

These bills include legislation to help with caring for substance exposed infants, legislation to create teams to review overdose deaths to help develop enhanced prevention, intervention and treatment strategies, and legislation to increase penalties for those who give someone a harmful drug that leads to their death.

For more information on the House’s efforts to combat this crisis, visit https://virginiahouse.gop/combating-the-opioid-crisis/.

Addressing the Teacher Shortage

Virginia is privileged to have a top-notch education system, in large part due to our excellent teachers. Unfortunately, however, we are seeing more and more of our teachers leaving the classroom for administrative positions.  This, combined with the retirement of teachers from the baby-boomer generation, has led to a significant teacher shortage as fewer young people pursue the career. Thus current teacher supply does not meet the demand.

One of the reasons many students or otherwise capable professionals don’t bother to pursue the career at all is because of our significant barriers and obstacles to licensure.. This year, the House passed several initiatives aimed at addressing these barriers. Three different bills specifically address streamlining the teacher licensure process. The bills will allow great teachers to enter a classroom sooner and will help keep these teachers in the classroom.  

My House Bill 2 not only works to solve the teacher shortage but also supports our military members by removing burdens that spouses of military members were facing when they move to Virginia and want to continue teaching. HB 1125 provides broader reciprocity for licensed teachers that come to Virginia from another state and do not have any deficiencies on their record. Last but not least, HB 215 will allow an individual that has teaching experience in higher education to become licensed for one year to teach at the high school level, provided they meet certain other requirements. 

The House is committed to providing individuals an easier path to achieve their career goals, and these bills are just a few steps in that direction.

Additional Accomplishments

The topics I have already mentioned are just a few of the many accomplishments we have made in the House over the last few weeks.  To read about the many things we’ve worked on this year, click here.

Visitors

This was a busy week so we saw fewer visitors this week. We were happy to see representatives from Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County, as well as Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald and Supervisor Gerald Garber.  I was also glad to see Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith and Lt. Gary Taylor.

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session. If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020. We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following me on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

 

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